It's Personal

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    • Silly white lies.

    Alison Chandler || 23 || Freelance Graphic Designer
    Some people would have said that there was no glamor in graphic design, that it was a boring, thankless job for people who weren't talented enough to be a real artist. Being featured in a gallery wasn't something that Alison Chandler had ever aimed for, but according to her older sister, she was wasting her time and life by sitting at her computer all day and creating logos. That had always been Madison's opinion, and the older woman never failed to state it during their bi-monthly phone calls where Alison would set the phone aside and read an article online about dealing with annoying people, or how to politely decline an invitation and come up with a good excuse. There were just some things that people couldn't avoid, parties that were more of an obligation and less of a social calling.

    “So, are you bringing anyone?” Madison asked, voice bubbly and conversational.

    For the last ten minutes, Alison's attention had been split between her bank account and a website that sold outlandishly priced home décor where a throw pillow was close to one hundred dollars. “To...what?” Alison asked slowly, mousing over to close the tab—she had enough throw pillows, and the conversation with her sister had just grown morbidly interesting.

    A rather disgruntled sigh erupted from the phone's speaker, and Alison raised an eyebrow, waiting for Madison to go on. “I sent you an email,” she said. “Mom and dad's thing! The barbeque, their anniversary! Seriously. I sent you an email. Didn't you get it?”

    That was hardly a question that Alison needed to think about. She knew exactly which email Madison was talking about, and it was the same one that red-haired girl had looked at for all of five seconds before sending it to the trash. The last place that she wanted to spend her weekend was trapped at a lake with her parents, siblings and all of their friends to celebrate thirty (allegedly) perfect years of marriage. Alison had planned to make up an excuse, a reason for continuing to be a disappointment, but Madsion was annoyingly close to ruining that plan. “I don't think I got it,” she said, an upward inflection to her voice.

    The other woman didn't seem to buy it. “Again. Who are you bringing?” Madison almost waited an entire beat before launching into more questions. “Not that guy you dragged to Thanksgiving, I hope. He looked homeless, Al. I think he asked to borrow dad's car.”

    The homeless man in question, who was more of a dirty, wannabe, rock star than an actual bum, was no longer in the picture. Even if Alison wanted to bring him to the party, they weren't exactly on speaking terms. It had something to do with a t-shirt and a whole lot of bleach, indiscretions that no longer mattered. “I'm seeing someone new. I'll be there, alright? Don't worry about me.”

    “I don't,” Madison scoffed. “Everyone else does.” There was a pause, and for a moment, Alison was trying to figure out whether or not she was actually offended. “Look, I have to go. Just show up, okay? Don't ruin this for them.”

    After that, the line went dead. Now caught between a rock and a hard place, and wrapped up in a lie, Alison needed a plan. There was no way that she was going to get out of the party, and she certainly didn't want to go alone. She doubted that any of her friends would be willing to tag along, either trying to keep their lives normal by avoiding the freak show, or bogged down functional adult obligations. “Fuck...” Alison sighed under her breath and groaned as she pressed her hands over her face.

    For the rest of the afternoon, Alison did her best to get some of her work done, but could barely focus on the menu design for a local bakery because her mind continued to slip back to the dilemma she had created for herself. Somehow, the best solution for everything seemed to be a total stranger—people hired other people for things all the time and the cash that she hadn't spent on that stupid throw pillow could be spent on a date. There were always actors around who needed the experience, Alison reasoned as she brought up her local Craigslist page.

    It took a while of scrolling through ads before Alison finally found someone normal. He seemed funny, his ad well-written and smart, saying that he would hang out for a small fee and free food, and there was bound to be plenty of that. Putting off the idea of being brutally murdered and ending up as a cautionary tale on the news, Alison grabbed her cell phone and dialed the number listed at the bottom of the page.

    It rang several times, the length of which was almost enough time for Alison to reconsider and hang up, but someone did answer. He sounded normal, not like a liar who was living in their mother's basement, or possibly skinned woman to make lamps out of them. How did serial killers sound, anyway?

    “Hi... Is this the guy from Craigslist who will work for free food?” That sounded so strange. Alison just hoped that she didn't sound like a total creep.
    #1 neptune, Apr 22, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2016
  1. Benjamin Connelly



    Eccentric Purveyor of Overpriced Gift Cards

    To call such masterful work a hobby was, quite simply, an invitation to have your ears abused via relentless defense of said work, accompanied by a cunningly crafted insult regarding one's parentage. Benjamin was surprisingly adept at forming these insults for someone who spent his work time selling gift cards, of all things. At ludicrously high prices, of course, but he wasn't an excellent salesman - with quite the reputation to boot - for nothing. He supposed he should be thankful that it was the sales that kindled his reputation over the years, and not his talent for verbal warfare.

    Thomas on the other hand, his loyal "partner-in-crime", Benjamin could hardly get a peep out of, regardless of what was going on around the poor designer. Benjamin assumed it was shyness, but Thomas had once declared it to be selective mutism. This had been quickly accepted, but then forgotten within the span of a week due to Benjamin's persistent questioning.

    "What about this?" Benjamin said, regarding his friend with an accomplished smile whilst brandishing a mostly-finished design in red pen. Why he'd spent an hour on such a crude drawing, not even he knew. But he seemed quite pleased with the outcome, whether or not it was decent or even done on good paper.

    A designer he was not.

    Thomas bit down on his lip, eyes flitting between Benjamin's expectant features, and the squiggles on the printing paper. Was that a coffee stain-- "S'fine," he murmured between teeth that wouldn't part. "Less circles, maybe? Spread 'em out."

    Benjamin turned the paper back around to get a look at it. Perhaps it was one of Thomas' tight-lipped insults intended to get Ben to work harder, but he could honestly see nothing wrong with it. Maybe his dear friend was going bad in the eyes. "Those are balloons, not circles. What's with you, Thomas?"

    Thomas grew red in the face. "Sorry. It's just they, uh... Let me try, huh? I thought we agreed I did the designs for a cut of the profits." And to be frank, Ben was running poor Tom right out of a job with the way he kept insisting on his awfully childish doodles.

    With a huff, Benjamin handed his friend the crumpled paper. "Yeah sure," he said, "go ahead. Balloons, remember! Now, I've got people to get to." Bens's people were customers-- loyal, friendly folk on the path to friend status. Or close enough that they got special discounts on a very select few cards, courtesy of his good will. Rarely did he make long-time friends due to his... eccentric behavior and flitting attention span. Tom was one of the few, but even he found it difficult to get along with him.

    And so, between checking on Tom's designs and the well being of his customers (a sales tactic in disguise), the day was rather average. Maybe a little hot thanks to broken air conditioning, and still no reply to the add-- really, food was all he wanted. You didn't make much selling gift cards, at least not enough to feed yourself properly. Besides, he liked to think he was a nice looking fellow, surely someone wouldn't mind his company in return for "saving his life", as Thomas had put it. Maybe let him take home the leftovers.

    Just as he was about to check in on Thomas' progress, his phone rang. Sure, he had friends who'd call in occasionally to chat or make sure he wasn't going insane. But at this time of day, they'd be swimming, or whatever it was that those athletic types did. He slipped the phone out of his pocket and flipped it open to answer, put on a smile as if the person on the other end could see it.

    He was pleasantly surprised when the ad, which he thought forgotten, was brought up immediately. He cleared his throat. "Sure is. What can I do for you?"
  2. There was a certain kind of low that came along with scoring a fake date off of Craigslist, even if it was the best and only option that Alison had come up with, aside from going alone. The idea of going up to the lake for a weekend and being poked and prodded at, all while having to listen to her parents praise her more successful siblings was enough to drive her crazy; the presence of even a complete stranger was decidedly more welcome than enduring that special kind of mental hell all alone. Ignoring the fact that this was how some B-horror movies started, or could possibly be yet another sequel in the Taken franchise, Alison did her best not to worry. The guy who had answered the call sounded as nice and pleasant as two sentences possibly could.

    “Are you free this weekend?” Alison asked. “My parents are having this thing up at their lake house, be honest, my family is a little much.” That was putting it mildly, but the drive up to the lake was on the longer side, and Alison figured that she could explain everything on the way—provided this poor guy even wanted to go. “There's going to be a lot of free food, and I can give you like...a hundred bucks?”

    It was the exchange of money that made Alison uncomfortable. She could deal with not having a date, or having to bribe some random guy with free food, a nice house for the weekend and a gorgeous lake to hang around, but having to actually pay was tough. At the very least, Alison just hoped that they could get along because currently, she could think of nothing worse than getting into a real fight with her fake boyfriend in front of a bunch of people who had been judging her for a little more than two decades.

    “My name's Alison, by the way,” she was quick to add. “I don't actually know how any of this works.”
  3. Had he a calendar, it'd be the first thing he'd check when she asked. "Free as can be," he said, a hint of a smile in his voice. "Free food's the gold here-- money's always nice, but not entirely necessary." Tom paid most of the rent anyway. Food, on the other hand, was harder to get his hands on. There was only so long one could live off of canned noodles and two-dollar tv-dinners. "Well, tip's nice too..." Ben settled down into the ratty old sofa at the center of the living room. It was collapsing at the center, some years old, probably stained in places he couldn't see, but familiar and comfortable.

    "Name's Ben. Benjamin. Nice to meet you, Allison." Well, almost. He hadn't actually met her face to face, but it seemed to be the polite thing to do. "Just give me the time of day, where you want me to meet you-- I'll be there. We can, uh, discuss it further when we can talk face to face, "people connect better with expressions to watch" and all."

    He'd only done it once, the ad. He'd been to family gatherings, parties, and group outings as a consort before, but it had always been for friends, or friends of a friend. Never a stranger. He was thrilled, really, about the whole thing, and not just about the free food. Though he couldn't quite explain why-- he'd never seen this family, never seen the woman calling. Maybe it was the mystery, then. Yeah, he liked mystery. That seemed to be appropriate reasoning.
  4. Even if it wasn't necessary, Alison still wanted to pay. It seemed like the right thing to do considering some poor stranger was going to have to spend an extended period of time with her family, and no amount of steak or pasta salad was going to make up for that trauma. “You can eat whatever you want,” Alison quickly promised. As far as she was concerned, this guy could take the buffet home with him as long as he kept her parents and siblings from openly giving her that look—the disappointed one that wasn't quite pity, but was still somehow disapproving. Before she could promise this man that the whole experience wouldn't be that bad, Alison stopped herself. He would probably need the hundred dollars to pay for a therapist after the weekend.

    When he finally said his name, Alison smiled. Benjamin was a normal person name, a sane person who quite possibly wasn't out to rob and murder her. “It's nice to meet you too,” she agreed, already feeling better about the whole thing now that she knew a little bit about him.

    Glancing toward the clock, the time was late, but the hour wasn't ridiculous. “Are you free right now?” she asked. “I don't have anything to do. We could meet, get coffee or, I'd say a drink but that feels weird.” The whole thing felt weird, but Alison didn't want Benjamin to think that she considered this a real date, or that she was so unlikeable she needed to bribe people to hang around her. “I'm also free tomorrow,” she offered, a little more hesitant. “Whenever you want, really.” Working for herself meant flexible hours, and although there were still a few projects that needed final touches, sorting out her fake personal life seemed slightly more important.
  5. "Neat," he murmured, half intentionally directed towards her and half too quiet to have not been him thinking aloud. There was some kind of jittery excitement about the whole situation, something fun about the idea of getting involved in whatever family issues she had in store for him. Not to mess around, mind you, but Ben's own family was terribly boring and average, a terrible thing when he himself was more than average and never quite fit in. Maybe his new 'client' and he would get along, and he wouldn't be so alone in the whole "my family doesn't think I'm normal".

    Ben hummed, leaning against the wall on his shoulder. "Where do you want me to meet you, then? Or, when-- I'm free most of the week." Working on a day-to-day basis with no real schedule to speak of, every day was a free day. Besides, she seemed nice as far as he could tell, so it wouldn't hurt to spend what free time he did have getting to know her. She could make up for whatever time he'd be spending with her family with unrestricted access to whatever food was involved in the gathering. And he'd be fine with whatever time - which wasn't much, really - he missed so long as he came home in one piece.

    "Nice little coffee shop just downtown, if you want. They sell cinnamon rolls." And Benjamin, however questionable his appetite may seem, had an excellent taste in cinnamon rolls.
  6. At the very least, Benjamin sounded excited. It was more than Alison could say for herself, but she was happy to have an accomplice for the weekend, someone who seemed nice enough over the phone and would hopefully be a believable match for her. After she had mistakenly brought her last boyfriend around the family, Alison vowed to never let them meet anyone else important to her. Technically, the redhead was staying true to her word, because Benjamin wasn't anyone—he was just a stranger, a nice guy who wanted free food and a weekend away. Alison could get behind priorities like those, and suddenly, the enigma of the man on the phone became a little more interesting.

    “I know that place,” Alison said, perking at the thought of cinnamon rolls. The pastry was enough to tempt her out of her apartment, and even if Benjamin turned out to be terrible, which Alison doubted, coffee and a pastry seemed like a good enough way to cushion the blow of being out of options. Plus, there was no point in not meeting him beforehand, especially if they were supposed to come off like a couple, or even good friends with some chemistry.

    Nodding, Alison was already on board. “How about tomorrow morning at eleven?” she proposed. It was late enough to sleep in, but early enough so that neither of them would be wasting their entire day if something went wrong. “We could meet outside,” she added. “Do you want a picture of me?” Knowing what Benjamin looked like was a good way to avoid any awkward situations, because Alison could see it already; sitting outside of the coffee shop and scrutinizing every stranger who passed by.
  7. Pleased to know that he wouldn't have to explain directions, Ben felt the tension ease a bit in his shoulders. Relief, maybe a bit of anticipation, allowed him to relax somewhat in the knowledge that it wasn't a call regarding loans. And, he was pleased to note, their first "meeting" was going quite well, all things considered. "Sure thing. Eleven it is," he agreed. There was a quiet scuffling on his end while he sought after a pen to write down the time, place, and date. He posted the sticky note, bleeding with a mess of thick handwriting, on the wall at his his shoulder.

    In case Tom makes you forget, he thought. Not that he blamed the poor designer, whose designs were only half decent in all honesty. He just talked a lot. Kind of.

    "Pictures? Yeah, you send me one, I'll send one right back. Luckily you thought of it or we'd be looking for each other for hours. Wouldn't that be a mess?" Benjamin's inherent persistence would drive him to ask around, but there was no guarantee that he wouldn't get distracted midway through the search and end up at the park instead. "My, uh, email should be in the ad," he concluded. He'd need time to find a decent photo that wasn't taken whilst he was unconscious, but there was bound to be something in the recycle bin of his old laptop. Skipping right over the awkward introductory faze while others were watching would make their whole situation much more comfortable.
  8. Laughing softly, Alison had to agree. Weird as the entire situation was, she already felt relaxed with Benjamin, and thought that they would get along rather well. It was a matter of trust, and although Alison had already put herself at a risk by soliciting a fake boyfriend off of Craigslist, it sounded like she had managed to find the most normal guy on the internet. She supposed that time would tell, and eleven the next morning would either ease all of her worries for the party, or send her scrambling to find an alternative to dealing with her family.

    “Okay,” she nodded, still smiling. “I'll email you, and then see you tomorrow, I guess. Thanks for this, by the way.” Even if nothing was set in stone yet, Alison still appreciated that Benjamin was willing to hear her out and meet up. After hanging up with him, the redhead exhaled sharply, trying to get rid of all the tension that had accumulated in her throughout the phone call. It had been stressful, but she felt good about the whole experience, and could only hope that she would continue to feel good about it come morning and after cinnamon rolls.

    Now, all that was left to do was find a picture. Being a girl with a fairly active social life, Alison had all kinds of pictures on her phone. Most of them were with friends during a night at the bar, or a concert, or just out and about in the city. It took a good minute of dragging her finger along the screen before Alison found a selfie—a solitary picture of just her, a close-lipped smile on her face during a sunny day. It was only a few weeks old. Bring up her email, Alison checked the ad on her laptop and easily found Benjamin's contact information.

    Before sending the picture off, Alison added a message:
    sooo. this is what I look like. still on for cinnamon rolls?

    For the most part, Alison liked herself, but there was always a chance that she wouldn't be someone's cup of tea. If Benjamin didn't reply, the redhead supposed she would have her answer.
  9. A satisfied hum followed a curt and friendly 'you're welcome', and the phone disconnected. That had gone well, all things considered, but Benjamin was glad to have it finished. Meeting her face to face to discuss would better allow him to settle into whatever job she had for him, get to know her some beyond her rather endearing voice and the fact that her family had some issues to work through. The gnawing hunger, the kind that could only be sated by cinnamon rolls, would have to wait while he searched through the files of his laptop for a decent photo of himself.

    Grainy group shots, candid photos of himself wherein he appeared to conspicuously young for his age to be used. A few formal images, cluttered among pictures of dirt trails and a fairly recent shot of him at an event he couldn't remember. He didn't look half bad with his quirky half-smirk and the chaos that was his hair. It would do, he decided, and he opened his email on the old desktop to attach the image as a response.

    Benjamin filed the image she'd sent him away in his memory for later use when it came time for him to seek her out, and filled in the blank space with a polite response:

    Not bad!! Here's mine. Been waiting for c-rolls since birth. Less you want to reschedule.

    She was a pretty girl, in his opinion. Red hair, nice smile, and a cute voice? He must've hit the jackpot, that or someone must be looking out for him. He hit send and stood up to give his back a good stretch. Couldn't slouch on a date, could he? And regardless of his irreverent demeanor, Benjamin was far from rude and would prefer to look good in the eyes of the girl offering him free food and a day out of the apartment.
  10. This was one of the weirdest things that Alison had ever done, and after breathing a rather long sigh, the redhead laid back on her couch with her phone resting on her stomach. She reached up and ran her fingers back through her hair, wondering if all of this was a mistake. Benjamin seemed nice enough, but people weren't always what they appeared to be, and after all, Ted Bundy was said to be very charming. Shaking her head, Alison was shocked by her own paranoia and went on to mentally berate herself for the next five minutes until an alert from her phone said that she had a new email.

    After a few taps, Alison opened up her email and was surprised to see a picture of a very normal-looking, but still quite cute, guy. She smiled to herself, part of her feeling like she had lucked out when it came to getting a fake date off of the internet. Benjamin was normal, and that was something Alison continued to tell herself that as she thumbed a response.

    no, definitely not. i'll see you tomorrow at eleven :)

    Everything was going to be fine, and despite some pre-morning jitters, Alison managed to get a decent amount of sleep. Although she found herself to be rather out going in social situations, she was still nervous about meeting Benjamin and that feeling continued to linger into the next morning. After waking up and taking a shower, Alison did her hair and dressed herself, and although she struggled to get the wing on her eyeliner even, the red-haired girl thought that she looked decent enough. In the back of her mind, she simply hoped that Benjamin wouldn't stand her up, because she definitely didn't want to be sitting at a cafe for hours on end, by herself, and end up looking like a complete fool.

    A little before eleven, Alison left for the cafe. The heart of the city wasn't far from her apartment, and walking seemed like the easiest way to get there as opposed to being stuck on a bus or having to pay for a cab. The weather was nice that day, sunny enough and the streets weren't overly crowded now that most productive adults had made it into work. It was the perfect time of day to be out and about, and the walk to the cafe didn't take Alison very long at all—in fact, she arrived five minutes before eleven and got herself a coffee. Having something to drink made waiting easier, and Alison found a table close to the door so that she could see Benjamin when (or if) he arrived.

    After burning her tongue on a still very hot sip of coffee, Alison looked up to see a slightly familiar blond enter the cafe. “Hey...” she said, caught between awkwardly raising her hand and standing to get Benjamin's attention. Why she thought that all of this would go smoothly was beyond her.
  11. Right, then. See ya.

    Then their "date" was set. He'd wake early to clear his schedule - which was most likely already empty - and attempt to show himself in a good light. Pick something decent to wear out of his mess of a closet, and hope for the best. He let his knees collapse and plopped down into the caving mattress he called his own. At least now he could stretch out and let his mind wander, vague drifted from vague glimpses of the girl in the photo to the slight pinch of hunger at the thought of food. And cinnamon rolls.

    Must have forgotten dinner, he thought grudgingly.

    Benjamin wasn't a particularly heavy sleeper. Not quite an insomniac, but not quite prone to good rest either. He rubbed away the circles beneath his eyes, praying silently in the hopes that she wouldn't mind if he came looking a little more exhausted than he'd anticipated. Put on a smile, wide eyes - not too wide - exuberantly loud voice and deep breaths to hide the yawns. That should do, and hopefully she wouldn't notice that anything was off.

    Not that anything was, but he'd prefer she not find out he'd slept in due to restless sleep caused by a broken air conditioner. He'd get it fixed soon enough. Benjamin pulled on the last clean shirt he owned and was on his way, later than intended. So long as no traffic stalled him, he'd arrive... hopefully on the clock. Maybe a minute later, if he was especially unlucky this afternoon.

    He caught her eye the moment he set foot in the coffee shop, recognizing instantly her rather unique facial features and hair. He greeted her with a wave, full of characteristic bravado, and as charming a smile as he could produce. "Lookie here-- how are you?" He'd get a pastry later, but for now, they needed to talk.
  12. Distracting herself was something that Alison was incredibly good at. Just before Benjamin had arrived, the redhead had been playing with the plastic lid on her coffee cup, popping it on and off like a crazy person just for something to do other than watch the door. There had been a part of her that believed Benjamin wouldn't show, but he seemed to recognize her right away once he entered the cafe and the best part was that he looked exactly like his picture. Stupidly enough, Alison hadn't even considered that the man she talked to only hours before could have been lying about his image. This was going so much better than Alison had originally anticipated.

    I'm okay,” she answered, smiling. Benjamin certainly was charming, even if he did look a little tired, and the photo that he'd sent the night before really hadn't done him justice. He was cute—not the type of guy that she would have normally found herself with, because Alison's type tended to look homeless and sometimes actually were—but that was beside the point. “How are you?” she asked in return. “It's not too early, is it?”

    Sitting back down, Alison smoothed her hands over the table and then wrapped one of them around her coffee cup. Fidgeting was a product of nerves, and Alison was unsure of whether or not Benjamin would even want to go on this trip after she told him about her family. “I guess we should start?” she questioned, wholly unsure. “My family is just kind of...awful.” To her, at least; they weren't awful to anyone else.

    (( so sorry for the wait on this! I accidentally missed this yesterday when I was trying to get all of my replies done ))
  13. He pulled up a chair and took a seat before her. His hands found his eyes and rubbed away the circles there. Forget a cup, a gallon of coffee would be welcome right now. "Good to hear," he said, his smile widening almost as if in humor. "I'm great. Slept on the wrong side of the bed. You know how it is." Then there were the neighbors, who tended to party late into the night. Why the landlord hadn't kicked those troublemakers out sooner was beyond him. They ought to be, for throwing only sub-par parties. "But, ah, no. Not too early. Don't worry."

    Benjamin nodded for her to begin, doing his best to seem easy to talk to. A knowing smile, trying not to sit too formally as to make him seem stiff or closed off. Her family, after all, couldn't be that bad, right? His own misfit band of a family could get wild, and surely nothing was worse than that. "Awful? How do you mean?" He seemed genuinely curious-- he needed to know everything before he jumped into this, and so asked her to elaborate.

    "Hey, can't be any worse than mine. Anyone with my surname is automatically banned from several joints around town thanks to them. Not me," he chuckled, "no, I'm... the black sheep of the family, I guess. I'm sensing you're the same, if not similar."

    (No problem. Feel free to take your time if you need it.)
  14. There was something terrifyingly freeing about opening up to a total stranger. Alison could have told Benjamin anything and just left the cafe after, gone to the lake house alone and endured the weekend the way she had endured so many others. There was a part of her that said something like that was a good idea, that lying was only going to make things worse for her in the end, and that Benjamin wasn't going to want to go anywhere with her after he heard the story. Regardless, Alison hadn't called this guy up in the middle of the night and then out to get cinnamon rolls for nothing, and he seemed receptive enough, even oddly prepared to a point.

    Wait,” she paused, grinning as she processed his words. “You're the black sheep because you...don't get into trouble?” It was a strange thing to be ostracized for, but Alison had heard of weirder things, and if Benjamin wasn't going to judge her, then she definitely wasn't going to judge him either. Truthfully, she was happy to hear that he didn't have some kind of criminal record that forced him to find work and food via Craigslist—maybe he just happened to like being in the middle of an awkward family party.

    Popping the lid of her coffee cup off once more, Alison took another cautious sip; finally, the liquid inside the brown cup had cooled enough to drink. “I guess I should give you the basics,” she began and subconsciously drummed her fingers against her thigh beneath the table. “My mom and dad have been married for thirty years—that's what this party is for. My mom's a middle school teacher and my dad is the world's most boring insurance agent. They have two perfect kids; Kevin is the oldest, he's an engineer and no one ever shuts up about him. Madison is my older sister, and she's...basically a professional mom, but she was a teacher too before she got married and knocked up.” Rolling her eyes, Alison realized how bitter she sounded.

    Then there's me. I dropped out of business school to become a graphic designer and no one has forgiven me since,” she shrugged. “I wish I could say that was the first major disappointment for them, but—you know.” Black sheep didn't become black sheep over one mistake, it took a lifetime of fuck ups and Alison had her fair share of disasters under her belt. “I have enough dark secrets to fill up the whole five hours it's going to take to get up to the lake,” she said, dangling her family history in front of this guy as if it was the cherry on top of the world's weirdest sundae. “Still want to go?”

    (( thank you! And same to you, ofc. ))
  15. Terrible choice in words, but at least he'd gotten his point across.

    "Uh... yeah, yeah sure. Something like that." It was a lot stranger than that, but Benjamin had never been particularly good at explaining things. "Something about not being daring enough. Family tradition to get at least one DUI." Benjamin chuckled shortly, cutting off half way through. "Doubt it's half as interesting among my family as it is among yours. We're not weird-- just troublemakers." With bad reputations rather than unusual backgrounds.

    He listened in polite silence as she listed off and explained each member of her family, his eyes lighting up in amusement at each name. They seemed like a rather average family, if a bit boring on the outside, but nothing he couldn't deal with. Or so he assumed so far. "Oh, I get it. They didn't like that, you choosing something like design over university-infested careers like business and engineering. Can't say I blame you." Controlling family members that despised anything that didn't fit the family traditional family standard. Seemed awfully familiar in the most awful of ways.

    "So," he began, the corners of his lips turning up. "That's what I'll be dealing with, huh? Guess they don't like the fact that you didn't get married the second you hit eighteen?" No one in his own family expected much, so long as you filled your given role and got out of childhood in one piece. Not that Benjamin had managed unscathed, but he was perfectly adjusted considering he was raised primarily by a very creative grandfather.
  16. In Alison's opinion, which hadn't been asked for, getting at least one DUI was an awfully dangerous tradition. Strange as it was, the redhead had quietly promised herself that she wasn't going to judge Benjamin, and so far, he had been nothing but accepting of her odd problems. “I'd rather hang around with a bunch of troublemakers than put up with the we're so happy schtick that my family seems to revolve around,” Alison said with a soft smile. There was nothing wrong with a little bit of drunken eccentricity, but Alison couldn't stand the fake slice of paradise that her family had carved out for themselves. In a way, she was glad to be unwanted.

    Hearing that Benjamin understood where she was coming from put Alison at ease even more. Earning a business degree was all well and good for someone who was actually interested in business, but it had only been a vain attempt to get the family to lay off and finally accept her. In the end, being happy and content proved to be much more important to Alison than knowing how to run a business, or having the approval of her mom and dad.

    Even if I was in business, they'd still find a way to talk about my brother,” Alison said dismissively and gave a shrug before taking another sip from the cup in front of her. “But yeah, that's basically it. I mean,” she paused, unsure of how much to reveal, “there's more, but I guess they never really expected me to get married. Then again, I tried to date the worst people that I could find just to piss them off. That was high school, and then there was a year where no one would speak to me and I kind of just dated who I wanted to.” Alison cleared her throat and began to fidget, her short, mint-green fingernails drumming lightly against the small table. “Newsflash, they still hated my boyfriends after that.”

    Many horrible things had plagued Alison's teenage years, but she didn't feel like spilling her entire life story to Benjamin over coffee and pastries. “I feel like I'm talking too much,” she breathed a laugh and shook her head. “Tell me about you. All I know so far is that you like free food and don't drink and drive.”
  17. He understood, to an extent. Hiding behind a mask and pretending to be happy with your place in a messed up family didn't seem like a very healthy thing to do-- and while his family's tendency to shriek their problems at the top of their lungs was better than holding it in, he was certain his eardrums could use a break. "Loud voices and patience get you far in my family. No stress, but a lot of very expressive people." And talented non-verbal communicators who had taken quickly to spouting insults at each other without a word. It was always best to leave them to it.

    "So the family's got a favorite," he scoffed. "No favorites in my family, but... a lot of "alliances". Blood does't mean much to some folks." Benjamin hardly held back a light chuckle at intentionally pissing her family off. It sounded familiar. He propped his chin up on his hands, elbows resting on the polished wooden table. "That's family for you," he said, eyes rolling. "Can't make up their minds whether they like you or hate you. Hate-love, in my case."

    And, regardless of their feelings, drag you out to their awful family parties just to make sure you haven't fallen too far from their ideal. Then judge them if they have.

    "Not much to know about me, really." His eyes drifted to the wall ornament behind Allison, his brows furrowed in thought. "My family's not that interesting. Guess I'm not, either. Other than me spending all my time making gift cards, there's not much else to know."
  18. Truthfully, expressive sounded better than the dysfunction that went on in Alison's own family. There were times when shouting could have solved everything, if someone would have been brave enough to raise their voice and announce that something wasn't right. Instead, almost every decision that Alison had ever made for herself had been met with the cold shoulder, a silent invitation to keep her distance but still act in a way that was acceptable to the family name. It was a horrible catch-22, and something that the redhead had stopped trying to figure out after leaving college to pursue her dreams. If Benjamin understood that kind of thing, Alison didn't think now was the time to discuss it—too heavy for a first meeting when neither of them had even ordered a cinnamon roll yet. The sugary pastry was now looking to be something of a reward; spill some secrets and get a prize.

    As Benjamin went on, Alison found it hard to believe that he or the family he came from were uninteresting. Someone who offered themselves as a fake date on Craigslist was sure to have a story and it had to be more than working. “Gift cards?” she asked, instantly curious. Until that very second, Alison hadn't even known that pieces of plastic bought at the last minute in a check out line were a profession. “You actually make them, or you put them in stores?” The latter sounded more likely, but there was no way for Alison to be sure. After all, people made money off of everything lately.
  19. "Setting them out is an old lady's job. I make them myself. Lots of work, but it puts leftovers in the fridge." Sometimes, he forgot to add. Benjamin was a salesman, not a designer, so a constant source of income it was not. He just hoped he'd get a break and finally make money he could use on things other than food-- like decorations, or a new bed. A new laptop would be nice. "I guess that's my most interesting attribute. Card making. Other than that, my background is just a lot of screaming, accusations, and drunkenness." He chuckled once more, as if he found his ridiculous mess of a family to be hilarious. He probably did.

    Not that he despised or was ashamed of his family. Blood may be thicker than water, but friends' parents who'd let him stay over on especially bad nights never seemed to get the same "love" that Benjamin expressed for his screeching mother and perpetually confused father. Whether it was love or just a natural fondness, he wasn't sure, but hate had never entered his mind when he thought of them.

    Benjamin hopped up suddenly out of his chair, breathing in the warm air of the coffee shop. "New batch of cinnamon rolls. I'll be right back."
    #20 Dipper, Jun 8, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2015
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